Marx-Engels Correspondence 1882

Engels to Marx
In Ventnor


Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence;
Publisher: International Publishers (1968);
First Published: Gestamtausgabe;
Translated: Donna Torr;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan in 2000;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

London, December 8, 1882

In order finally to get clear about the parallel between the Germans of Tacitus and the American Redskins I have made some gentle extractions from the first volume of your Bancroft. [Hubert Howe Bancroft (1832-1918)--American historian.] The similarity is indeed all the more surprising because the method of production is so fundamentally different--here hunters and fishers without cattle-raising or agriculture, there nomadic cattle-raising passing into agriculture. It just proves how at this stage the type of production is less decisive than the degree in which the old blood bonds and the old mutual community of the sexes within the tribe have been dissolved. Otherwise the Thlinkeets in the former Russian America could not be the exact counterpart of the Germanic tribes--even more so really than your Iroquois. Another riddle solved there is how the fact that the women are burdened with the main mass of the work is quite consistent with great respect for women. Moreover I have found my suspicion confirmed that the Jus Primæ Noctis [right to the first night] originally found in Europe among the Celts and the Slavs, is a remnant of the old sexual community: it subsists in two tribes, widely separated and of different races, for the medicine-man as the representative of the tribe. I have learned a great deal from the book, and with regard to the Germanic tribes enough for the time being. Mexico and Peru I must reserve for later on. I have given back the Bancroft but have taken the rest of Maurer's things, which are therefore now all at my place. I had to look through them on account of my concluding note on the Mark, which will be rather long and with which I am still dissatisfied although I have rewritten it two or three times. After all it is no joke to summarise its rise, flourishing and decay in eight or ten pages. If I can possibly get the time I will send it to you in order to hear your opinion. And I myself would like to be quit of the stuff and get back to the natural sciences.

It is funny to see from the so-called primitive peoples how the conception of holiness arose. What is originally holy is what we have taken over from the animal kingdom--the bestial; "human laws" are as much of an abomination in relation to this as they are in the gospel to the divine law.